Now that I’ve worn out Jenny Lewis’ newest album, On The Line, I’ve ventured back a step in her solo discography. The Voyager was released in 2014, and I’m going to be honest, I didn’t care for it at first.
I’m not sure if it’s a case of needing your own life to line up a certain way in order to make a piece of art click with you, or maybe I just wasn’t open to liking it at first, for whatever reason. I remember skipping entire tracks after listening to the intros and not being captivated by them. I remember feeling disappointed that it didn’t sound like Acid Tongue, her 2007 release. (I guess I’ll have to do a post about that one soon.) At any rate, for some reason, I didn’t care much for The Voyager for a year or two.
That is not the case anymore. Just One of the Guys and She’s Not Me Have Been the stalwarts of this album since day one. The video for the Just One of the Guys is especially amazing, as Lewis was able to recruit friends and fans Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, Brie Larson, and Tennessee Thomas to do some satirical gender-bending. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition though, as the song is quite poignant, yet the video is played mostly for laughs. It’s all great though.
She’s Not Me also features a star-studded high concept video to go along with an excellent song, one of the very best on the album. The video serves as a distorted retrospective of Jenny Lewis’ career as a child actor. The players in this one include Feist, Fred Armisen, Zosia Mamet, Vanessa Bayer, and Leo Fitzpatrick.
Why do I put so much stock into touting who’s in these music videos? it’s because artists tend to be really good judges of art, and I tend to trust artists more than critics or laypeople. When Jenny Lewis is able to recruit so much talent for silly music videos, it’s a good idication that her art is deemed as exceptionally high quality by those other artists.
But back to the songs, now. Those two were the only songs from this I really knew for several years. Then, one day, Slippery Slopes came on after one of them and I didn’t skip past it. Over the course of about 8 months, it has become one of my favorite songs. Of. All. Time. This song is literally everything I want in a song. Fuzzy, hazy guitars, a grooving bassline, drug and alcohol references, sex, and a beautiful voice pouring into my ears. Textually, it’s a meditation on the pitfalls of monogamy and questioning whether open relationships are a viable option in this day in age. Or is it just a slippery slope?
Up next, Late Bloomer, is one of those fun songs that tells an entire story with it’s lyrics. The narrator heads off to Paris, and shacks up with a guy before meeting Nancy. Nancy seems to open her up to all manner of new experiences. Nancy’s in search of a songwriter, presumably to seek answers about a song that got under her skin a long time ago. In the end, the parties all go their separate ways with nothing but the memories of the times they shared.
You Can’t Outrun Em is vintage Jenny Lewis. This song could have been on Acid Tongue, and I can’t believe I didn’t give it a chance for like 4 years. Huge regrets for that.
The New You has a catchy pop-song aesthetic to it. It’s a toe-tapper and features bright shimmering guitars and a lyrical meter that is mesmerizing. That’s just the sugar to help the medicine go down, though. This song is an indictment. We’ve all known a person like this; everyone could sing along with this song and feel something in the words.
The next song is fine… just fine. I don’t care much for it, but it’s not bad. It’s just different. It’s called Aloha and the Three Johns, and it’s actually got a really catchy chorus, I just don’t like the music underneath the lyrics. It’s just too much for me.
Love U Forever is a serious guilty pleasure song for me. It’s the sort of song that they’d use in a comedy movie for a scene where a guy in a convertible is singing along at a stoplight and gets embarrassed when someone pulls up next to him. It’s about being in love, spending time with girl friends,getting married, and all that Jazz. But the music is just irresistible.
Before we get to the title track, we need to jump back to the opener, Head Underwater. This is another one that has seriously grown on me. It’s a summery, pulsing proclamation of self-actualization. And it is epic. It is magical.
Now, last but certainly not least, let me talk about The Voyager. Don’t get me wrong, polished and produced studio tracks are great. They are technical achievements. But if you give me a song paced by heavy strums on an acoustic guitar and a silky smooth voice singing lyrics that mean something so profound you can literally hear it in every quaver… now you have my attention. That’s what this song is. I don’t know what it means to Ms. Lewis, but it’s big. And by virtue of that, it means something big to me as well. There is no greater feeling than to let yourself be moved by art. And The Voyager moves me. Like so many Jenny Lewis songs that have come before, there is something incredible at work here.
Plus there’s a little xylophone part that I adore, and a reprise from Just One of the Guys.
I hate that this album languished in my library for so long without getting it’s due. But I’m making up for lost time.
I strongly advise you to check it out.